Sussex County League Division One
Oaklands Park, Chichester
Match Rating: 3
A quicker than expected car service this morning opened up the possibility of a longer distance trip than I had anticipated today. Although I have previously visited Oaklands Park four years ago, that was only for the last half hour of a game on a dark and damp afternoon. Today's visit would also represent an opportunity to watch Crowborough Athletic in an away game, having been a frequent midweek visitor to their home ground this season.
Oaklands Park is about a twenty minute walk northwards from Chichester train station, taking in the very pleasant and historic city centre en route. After entering the ground in one corner, moving along the length there is a covered standing area and then, straddling the half way line, is a large rather bland looking brick building housing the clubhouse and changing rooms, which was under construction on my previous visit. The previous clubhouse behind one of the goals has been demolished, with just hard standing present now, as there behind the other goal. On the opposite side to the covered standing area is an almost identical structure, whilst straddling the half way line on this side is a small metallic stand with cushioned seats. The ground has a moderately scenic setting, with Chichester Cathedral visible in the distance and a park adjacent with Chichester Rugby Club just about visible looking up the park. The programme, consisting of twelve pages of matchday information inside a twelve page glossy shell consisting mainly of advertising, was a good effort, with fixtures and results so far with team line-ups and plenty of information on the visitors.
Chichester have had an unspectacular start to their season, currently in 14th place, with 15 points from their 14 games so far. After capitulating to defeat in midweek having been two goals in front, Crowborough remained in third place, heading a closely bunched up field behind them, being just five points above tenth placed Lingfield. Today's teams have already met this season in the John O'Hara Cup, with Crowborough winning at home on penalties after a 3-3 draw - with Chichester leading 1-3 with just a few minutes to go.
On an afternoon that started off sunny but soon became overcast after kick-off, this was a very even game, with Chichester looking the livelier and more threatening team. They took the lead on 34 minutes with an avoidable goal. Some quick passing created some room for a Peter Herbert to take the ball inside the penalty area and his fairly weak shot went just inside the post through a gaggle of players, with the goalkeeper probably misjudging that it would go wide or be blocked. 1-0 was how it remained at half time, a leading that the home team just about deserved.
Into the second half and Chichester looked much the more likely to score, with Crowborough lacking invention and aimless long balls forward rarely looked like resulting in a chance on goal. Suddenly, Crowborough did draw level on 77 minutes, when the ball was crossed in from close to the corner flag, and Sam Carrington cushioned a header into the top corner of the net. This completely changed the game, as now, for the first time in the match, it was Crowborough who looked much the more threatening and likely to score, and Chichester were hanging on a little in the closing stages, but that they did, and a point apiece was a fair reflection on an even game.